Tuesday, April 25, 2017

All-cure mudra

It is extremely annoying when you visit a doctor to be told that at your age arthritis is inevitable. This was told to me after a mobike accident, so I shut off from the gibberish that doctors sometimes dole out to you. I know that I am fitter now than when I was in my twenties and that the body is a miracle of healing and a lot of sickness in my youth came from my middle-class fears about my future, my timidity, and general angst a youthful person has. And having hurt your shoulder joint in an accident has nothing to do with arthritis! And as far as rheumatoid arthritis is concerned, even today science has not cracked what exactly causes it. Though tentatively, knowing how silly and inhibited science can be about checking out connections between the mind and body, it has been established that a highly sensitive person is often prone to it, as well as prone to other ailments where the immune system begins to attack itself.

So, while blogging on anti-aging mudra I realised that since the kapha personality is very strong, it has no anti-aging mudra as such simply because the other two elements -- air and fire -- are often the causes of diseases. So, in that case how come the kapha person can be beset with equally debilitating diseases? It is because this element is so strong, it can be stubborn about healing, if it chooses to suffer. This often also happens because the kapha person, while slow to anger, often when deeply hurt can hold on to hurts for far longer than the other two doshas. So, a kapha arthritis would be were the joints have collapsed to the point of having effusions in them. Often arthritis in a kapha person also happens due to obesity where the weight of the body, begins to overload the joints,

So, in that case, if properly diagnosed as joint pain from excessive fluid in the joint, the jal shaamak mudra (Destroying water element in body mudra ) may be practiced. This is another reason to understand why mudras cannot be casually prescribed. Because if the joint pain is from inflammatory condition and dryness, you practice the opposite type of mudra called jal mudra (water element hand gesture) where the tip of the little finger just touches the tip of the thumb. In this mudra, the water element increases. In the Destroying the water element mudra (jal shaamak)  the little finger is pressed down.

The pressure and holding of the mudra, despite using the same fingers, is different in either of the above mentioned mudra.

Where you are confused as to what ayurvedic personality type you are, or are not sure what is the cause of your disease, you could try this tridoshic mudra (mudra that is good for three doshas) called Surabhi mudra.  It is a bit complicated. Your little finger in each hand touch the tip of the ring finger in each hand. They cross over each other. Then the ring finger of each hand touch the middle finger of each hand. The fingers will cross over again. The thumb of each hand of course are also lightly touching. 

There are no contraindications as such. And it is a bliss mudra, and uplifts you too. 
Happy sadhana! 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Anti-aging mudras

Mudras are very powerful practices.
Like all powerful practices, they must be done with extreme wisdom, and awareness. A lot of people, especially  people propagating them, seem to think alternative therapies are gentle. They are not. They are powerful. The other unforgivable mistake made by those who propagate them is to make out that these are general prescriptions for everybody. These are specific to personality types; and personality types which can be aggravated by these elements must, obviously,  avoid them.
In the keenness to pretend towards being "healers"a lot of people just casually prescribe these practices. Some people do it for the halo of being regarded as healers. This is an extremely annoying problem today -- of many absolute idiots pretending to be healers and doling out advice, platitudes and downloading stuff from the net, or doing vacuous certificate courses which have no value, and stealing information from the sites of  more experienced teachers and passing off second hand information as their own. Mudra prescription falls in this dangerous field where the hand gestures are regarded falsely as simple practices and harmless but useful.

So if you have a high kapha personality, DO NOT PRACTICE these except for specific healing. These work for the dominantly pitta and vata pesonalities.

                                                  (Kaphakaarak mudra/ hand gesture for earth /water element)
(Prithi mudra/ hand gesture for earth)

If you are creaking with joint pains. Or feel tired, and think it has to do with aging. If you are prone to fractures, cracked skin, dry eyes, dry hair, wrinkles. If you have all sorts of "heaty"problems -- acidity, ulcers, breakouts, digestive tract burn, and a lot of other irritating ailments that have the suffix -itis. If you suffer from lack of sleep.

These mudras are used to prevent such tracks of aging. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Healing is a tough choice

Sayana chaturangadandasana: repose fourlimbed rod pose. 

Recuperating is different from healing. All sick beings -- I mean humans or animals -- when ill have no choice but be forced into recuperation. Much of the paraphernalia of injury or sickness --  fever, pain, immobility. disinterest in social interaction, the need to hole up or be bed-ridden, even disinterest in food -- is a way of the body to facilitate recuperation. But recuperation is different from healing. Healing can be a tough choice and it does not always guarantee that your choice will be favored. Nevertheless that is where, in making the choice, that you make a difference.

Choosing the right type of healer/doctor, the right choices of food, the agony to return back to normal, and the absolute stamina to sustain the discomforts of your choice -- tasteless foods, physiotherapy, discipline, movement where there is resistance, all of this are very difficult. Then this can become compounded because healing means how you deal with people rallying around you -- do you lie back and ask for attention, or resent where there is no attention, or resist attention which limits your healing?

I realise most of us are not trained to think like that. I believe a strong yoga practice gives you the right practice over this tight-rope walking. Unless you watch out for how, perhaps,  you are not interested in healing -- and unfortunately that is true of many of us -- healing would take the backstage. It is frustrating for me that most peopledon't make this choice. I feel we are required to make this choice for all those people who do not have this choice -- who are seriously sick and who would love to be in your privileged position of choosing sickness over healing. It is even mean, if you come to think of it.:somehow, I believe people who feign illness or who do not make a serious choice for healing, are dragging the rest of the world down because at the end of the day, we are a collective consciousness.

The process of healing means you have to pass through a canopy of pain or discomfort. Running away from that, however tempting, and just to lie back... understandable, but  at the least you should know that is what you are doing.

I told a celeb student recently that she was a hypochondriac. It was essential to point that out, and even if it meant losing a student. It goes against my role as a teacher to allow people the idea that they can dilly-dally about healing. Especially if they continuously talk of their ailments.: this is particular trait of hypochondriacs! The really sick people hole up and suffer it:(

The other day one woman landed at my studio door. She had a mat and said she will join my class.She had a list of problems, from hormone to digestion to body weight. I told her that she need to go back and come back to me only after choosing to make a choice for healing. Because I do believe yoga helps control, if not cure, many chronic problems. She messaged me a few days later and said that this request was an eye-opener for her and she need to analyse if she wanted to be really healed. She said she had never seen it from that angle and what shocked her was she was hesitant to be subjected to a process of healing.

I was not surprised. But I think many of you would be. It is a thought we need to have, not just regards our own healing, but that of those we love -- are we facilitating the healing or creating more space of sickness.

This is a tricky bit. But here is where yoga helps. Because healing is very tough.

#chaturangadandasana #sayanachaturangadandasana #fabafterfifties #yogaforoverthe50s #yogachic #gypsyyoga #yogamakesyouhappy #yogahealsandhow #yogibhogirogi

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

This business of low metabolism

One of the most exciting and difficult habits I cultivated early on into my yoga practice was to eat only two meals daily. I would be super strict about it, though nowadays I am a bit relaxed about it, if I find anything more exciting to chew on.
But I found that this meal habit helped my body making it lighter, and I slept better and woke up promptly whenever I wished to rise up.
The scientific logic behind it appealed to me also:
* animals with low metabolism lived longer, so the rishis copied this habit
* the overworked gut got to rest between these long gaps.
* that the high metabolism animals were irascible and anxious or aggressive
* that while high metabolism is promoted as the cure-all for weight loss, it may be treated as any emergency medical aid and not something to which you become attached.. Would you use an oxygen mask or IVF drip every time, or depend on natural process?!
* That the rested stomach meant you did not feel tired. A tired stomach is a tired mind, because those of us smart enough to know of the gut-brain axis know that your gut is as much part of your emotional self as your nervous system.

The exciting hint of all this I got a whiff of, when I read Swami Satyananda in one of his books, observe how rishis stayed in high altitude caves where oxygen levels were low just to force drop their metabolism even lower -- somewhat like hibernating animals. This means they trained their body to do with less resource -- whether it was breath, food or water.

And think of it -- you really learn to make do with less. This idea of austerity is appealing because you then enjoy with more keenness everything.

Oh, btw, the argument got clinched in the favor of low metabolism when I read sonewhere that Atkins, who actually propelled this idea of high metabolism through a high protein diet, died under mysterious circumstances -- by falling at a kerb.

I think the idea is that when the body goes into a low metabolism as with unfit people it is a disease, but where yoga creates a non-demanding metabolism it is full of energy. There is a lot of difference, as berween a corpse and a person in a corpse pose!


The pose above: Is chaturangadandasana /rod pose variation. It is possibly my most difficult plank. But I was able to lift both from the ground and drop from the plank. So felt supreme:)

Health gyan: By my favorite ayurvedic author Dr David Frawley on the order of flavors on your plate: 
Sweet should be had first. Salads towards the end. Sour in the middle of the meal (YOGHURT).
Astringent stuff (like a herbal tea) towards the end. 

Friday, March 31, 2017

Effortless effort, on the mat

There was a student today struggling with a pose. He asked me,  which direction should I push. I said, to reach the pose, you do not push, but surrender. This idea --of effortlessness --  is a big struggle on the mat. Especially in India, effortlessness is misunderstood to mean  being  laidback. Au contraire it is a state of absolute awareness, a call for preparedness, total alertness without  all the agitation associated with these states. If all our text books were burned away, and we had only this simple idea -- which threads through all of Indian philosophy, and all of the Eastern philosophy, in fact -- we would be well-educated, super aware and disciplined and organised. Unfortunately all the wrong ideas of effort have muddied our thinking, almost beyond repair. Often, as a yoga teacher I am struggling to reprogramme people towards the idea of effort as a state of awareness .. not a tension, but a relaxed alertness.

So, while doing this fabulous pose called sayana astavakrasana (repose eight crooked limb pose) this concept struck me even more forcefully, in a moment of absolute epiphany. This is one of the toughest arm balances in my repertoire.

When you do this pose you tend to - wrongly -- take all the mental effort onto the shoulders. It is as if you jump headlong into the swimming pool without gauging the depth from where you should jump or finding out how deep the water is. In fact, I realised chunking awareness to each part of the body, eg towards the  legs so they tautened and held up against gravity, then shifting the attention to the elbow to check it is placed  right, you move your attention to the oblique muscle and then shift awareness towards the upper arm on which the thigh is resting. You actually lift from the oblique muscle and upper arm awareness.  It is like a ballet inside your brain, a symphony of awareness unruffled by your excitement to √§chieve" the pose. Then this idea of the right effort -- which is essentially a state of awareness, makes the pose feel superlight and achievable.

There is nothing to achieve. It is just BEING in the moment.

I have this tiny booklet called Simple Zen. It talks of the void. And how Indians were the first to stumble on this concept of shoonya/ emptiness. The zero in fact made mathematics possible. It freed the human intelligence from limitations of numbers. The idea of the Infinite in science was possible because of zero. In this recognition that "nothing"was "something".

In fact, the whole of our life is a journey, going back to realising this.

Health Gyan: 
Aging and stress. Stress not only causes disease or aggravates existing one, it also ages you super fast. Here is how. You may have heard of telomeres. These are caps at the end of our chromosomes. They shield our chromosomes. But in those who are severely stressed (professions, caring for severely sick people) these begin to shrink. This in turn affects the rate at which DNA inside is copied and how fast our cells divide to create new ones. So, stress just wears these telomeres so bad that they are unable to support cell division which helps us remain younger inside. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Why entering your fifties is fab

I have a lot of very young kids, mostly my daughter's friends, who write to me on how they feel relieved when they see me having fun, like a child -- be it on the mat, or with my new hobbies --  that entering fifties need not be the scary thing that it appears to them, from where they are.

 It is interesting this fear, and I would think much of this comes from the shrinking families where loneliness of the adult is a true thing. Earlier the large sprawling joint family systems meant everybody always had a role, and the role of the older person was very part of the young brood's upbringing.

Indian tradition itself spoke of vanaprashtam, choosing a forest life. It is silly to see this pa
rt as "retirement". Because ask any of the many youth ..some of them good acquaintances of mine who have gone for sustainable forestry and development and returned back to cities with their tail firmly between their legs that it is very hard work. To start a new home, in a jungle, with bare resources. To plant a tree, and maintain your own garden. To look after forest animals that wandered into your haven. There is enough evidence to suggest that these ashramas  also were run as boarding schools where kids, including of royalty, were looked after. How can a new "profession" be called retirement?

It seems traditionally Indians had a culture where entering the fifties was seen as a time to make a fresh start, in an altogether new environment, and the strengths that are required to go with were assumed. How wonderful is that?! Somewhere along the way, this way of thinking has been buried. And we have begun to fear the process of life
 I have broken a few things in my other sports and have  repaired myself, thankfully, without surgery or other dire things that doctors say I must resort to. Despite that, every other day I learn something new.

My secret to all this? 

I am not dependent on a group of people to hang out with. This is in complete variance with what a lot of sociologists, psychologists and therapists say about the post-fifties. They keep saying go out, meet new people, have a gang, be socially active.

I do all of that, of course, as the moment demands. I meet new people. I am very comfortable meeting new people, more than I think, those who hang out in gangs. Because you can see those who hang out as a group are doing that because they are intimidated by new people, or cannot do anything new, on their own!

So the power to be my own best friend, I think that is a special aspect of a regular yoga practice. Yoga is my friend. In my practice I realise that I am watching my own mind. I am comfortable with its weaknesses. I am matronly while trying to change it. I am disinterested if it turns critical.

A regular yoga practice shears your need of the externals. You learn to be non-judgemental, open to fresh experiences, keen to learn, yet intuitive to know when to step back when something new turns out to be unsavory.

Something very special happens. The fifties then seems like a time when you are freed of a lot of baggage of the rest of your life. It feels light.  More than in your youth, this is the right time to soar.

Health Gyan: In the book The Mind and the Brain, author and doctor MD Jeffrey Schwartz makes this terrific conclusion that how you think is not so important. It is how you think about your thoughts that can actually change your brain, create the right conditions to give birth to new brain cells (neurogenesis). This a revolutionary concept. But they have found that neurogenesis continues throughout life.

If you chew on this long enough, you will have the archimedean moment: know your thoughts.

And that, my cherie, will happen only and only with yoga or meditation.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Purity a prerequisite for sarvangasana

One of the  most disturbing aspect of teaching  people is having to watch  people jump in and out of sarvangasana without any style. Unfortunately this lack of structure is more common amongst Indian students.Perhaps too much use of props, or maybe lack of overall fitness, or simply an inability to connect with the body in a manner that comes to those  nationalities or people's who are sporty by nature.

Given this there are also contraindications  for those who hold inversions for too long. This too must be a local problem..a general sense of not seeing a sequence in their asana practice and lumping practices any which way.

Here is a warning  by Swami Satyanandaji who I consider my inner guru in these matters. 
Ideal duration for normal  people is  3 to 5 minutes.
If you have impure blood u must avoid long stay in such poses. One way to know this is if u have boils or are constipated.

Also to avoid if u feel dizzy. Or are perspiring unnaturally, have unnatural heart palpitations.

Though inversions have their position in any sequence sarvangasana is in a class of its own. Because it can induce tranquility  and yet keep  the mind alert it is advised both in the beginning and end of asana practice and just before pranayama.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Living in a state of awareness; THE ELEMENTS IN YOUR BODY

It is an exciting phase in my life. After having run around on skates, yes, even after becoming a yoga teacher, I suddenly feel that I must "retire", hang up the skates, and enjoy vanaprastham (retirement to a life of organic living in the forest, and the fourth stage in Indian philosophical living).
So part of this, which seems to have happened on its own, after having had yoga for so long in my life, is that I am just aware of myself in the third person quite a bit. When this happens initially, it is very disconcerting because it happens after you dumped a sense of yourself that has dominated all your life, whatever its value up that point.

So, though I had owned the book Tattwa shuddhi (by the Bihar school of yoga) lately I am more alert to how the elements flow, and how my mood shifts, so that I am so many things rather than what I imagine myself to me. It is pretty exciting, though it has come late. But if you understand the sense of the living in the present, it does not matter really how late it came, because the idea of time becomes redundant in this very zen place.

And part of this awareness is to be alert to the flow of elements and their different energies in your body.  So, you are actually not this rushy air (that you define and feel yourself to be) but somewhere split up into all these different things.

Here is what the master Harish Johari say about the elements'power:

EARTH:  When it flows it helps growth of nail, hair, bone, flesh, skin and energy channels. When it is disturbed you could be afflicted by mental problems, phobias, jaundice.


Best, during daytime.

Body requirement: Stationary.

WATER: Its connected to flow of urogenital fluids, mucus, saliva, lymphatic fluids, blood. And their health. EMOTIONAL DISORDERS when this element is out of sync.

HELPS: With creativity.

Best, during night.

Body requirement: Movement.

FIRE: Connected to hunger, thirst, sleep, lethargy, radiance connected with this. When disturbed it causes anger, stomach ailments, body swelling,

HELPS: DESTRUCTIVE ACTIVITY  may be achieved with success when this element flows.

AIR: Disorders - heart, high blood pressure, pessimism, depression, loneliness, stress. Skin dryness, skin diseases, nervous system problems.


When dominant, love, enmity, shyness, fear and attachment become evident. When akasha is flowing it ruins all attempts.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Clenching your fist is healing?

For almost a decade now, I have been doing Muay Thai. I am hooked to it, simply because in trying to struggle to get one movement just right is so engrossing that I find it super meditative.

And even today, after years, to be able to hold the clenched fist, for a proper punch, is an effort. Perhaps I have deep inhibitions in my mind that I wish to remove, and they are still there, like so much muck under the water's surface:)

So, I wanted to see what yoga had to say about clenched fist, which is, as anybody who knows yoga or Indian classical dance, is  known as mushti / mushtika mudra.

In ayurveda and yoga, the thumb represents the fire element.

In this context, you will know that when the thumb presses down firmly over the other fingers, it suppresses all the other elements and therefore their aggravation.

Which means it controls lethargy (of the ring finger), flow of bodily fluids like mucous, menses, saliva, sweat, oil (of the little finger), agitation of the spirit and the mind (of the middle and index finger respectively). Since fire is seen has the lord of the  other elements, the thumb is the last word on control.  So, yes, wow!

These are the other aspects of the elements it suppresses:

* Dullness of the mind
* Excessive boredom
* Low self-esteem
* Excessive feelings of cold
* Oily hair, skin
* Lack of sweating
* Low appetite
* Sluggish metabolism
* Lack of thirst
* Weight gain
* Hypothyroidism
* Absence of periods
* Too much mucous

Points to note: Since the thumb represents the fire element, you may want to use this with discretion and only on prescription, or for limited time. It will dry you out, overheat you and overcharge (like a mobile phone, if you want to understand in contemporary context;) Drink a lot of water and fluids  and hydrate even if you are prescribed this mudra.

Avoid when having heating conditions, like ulcers, fevers, inflammations.

Or have a high pitta dosha.

Or you will erupt -- in body and mind!!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Hobbies to heal your chakras

Most people think only contorting on the mat, or having your kundalini "prodded"by an expensive workshops (many sound so scammy, I wonder  at the general intelligence of people attending them) will sort their problems.

I have been screaming from the rooftops that the best way to do it is very simple. Read Dr David Frawley's book Ayurvedic Healing, or read his books on Yoga and Ayurveda:)

Any case, was browsing through my huuuuge collection of books on alternative sciences and dug up this rather integrated book by Amit Goswami titled Quantum Doctor which has a foreword by Deepak Chopra (and don't let that detract you from the contents of the book. And yes, I am just joking, in my initial stages of yoga I read up most of Deepak Chopra's books to get a quantum look at healing till his books became rather repetitive).

The older I grow, the faster I realise that there is a huge relationship between how our feedback loop to simple events are, and these in fact, decide our body type, our ailment track and finally, and most importantly, determine our healing.

How you think can and does reflect on your body. And more than anything else one needs to overhaul the way we think. To this, we need to incorporate not hard choices, but simple fun activities that draws us away from our natural inclinations and rewrites our inner programming.

Here is Goswami's take on this. To read more on it, you really want to read his book. He is a Ph.d physicist, and gives a very scientific spin to this subject (as Chopra used to) make it intensely appealing to even the hardcore rationalist.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Jekyll and Hyde aspects of yoga practice

Sociologists will surely have a reason as to why neoconverts stake more me-mine-onlymine claim to old practices. So I will dispense with that psychobabble. But there is similar aggressive attempt to reclaim yoga as one's own and for a sincere practitioner this can be disturbing.  Simply because many of those who staking claim to yoga hardly practice it. 

But that is their problem. Seriously. If there is a toss between arguing for or against yoga, or just practising it, what would the most sincere person do? Precisely. Same thing is happening with religions around the world  and that can be a dangerous thing. 

 I have learnt -- and I actually felt a deep depression for a few years about this aspect of teaching it -- is that oftentimes a yoga practice can help the crook become more  crooked. That is why in ancient India the custom  of initiation was instituted (not to make money for the guru!) so the teacher knew which disciple  had the spiritual stamina and integrity to be able to handle the strengths and powers that came with a strong, solid practice. Remember the line from Spiderman.. with great power comes great responsibility? 
Here is what Swami Krishnananda, the disciple of my Sadguru Sivananda, has to say about this aspect of yoga: 

Nothing can be so beneficial as yoga is, and nothing can be so terrific and frightening as yoga is. This is the irony of the whole matter. It is not easy for a person to feel in one's own heart that a concentration on a form, what that form may be, inward or outward, is capable of bestowing abundance of the riches of the world. Who does not wish to become a king, if that were predictable? 

These difficulties will have to be faced one day or the other. In facing them, many have failed, have had a fall. With such a thud, they had to break their heads. They would have been better without yoga than with it. "

If you know what are some of the powers yoga is said to bestow you will know that why in the hands of the crook, it can be a dangerous thing: 
The eight siddhis are anima (the ability to become small), mahima (the ability to become big), garima (become heavy), laghima (become light), prapti (obtain all), prakamya (do /achieve anything), isitva (lordship /control over all), vasitva (control over the elements). 

If you know the story of tantric yogi Milerapa, his guru Marpa does not reveal to him the  secrets of what he is seeking because  he knows Milarepa was already super strong. (With his tantric powers Milarepa had sought to avenge his family's suffering by attacking those who had caused it).  Marpa first humbles him completely, in several ways that can only seen as pure torture, before he initiates him to the ultimate secret. Nowadays, it is easier to get yourself initiated into anything with a bit of money!  But those days the real guru knew that too much a good thing, if not monitored, could actually be a bad thing. 

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

The dangers of overflowing chakras

So there are a lot of yog√§ "experts"these days offering to make your blocked chakras flow. This is an extremely tricky place. Very few masters will proudly discuss their intuitive understanding of something like the chakras. More evolved masters than these Johnny-come-lately types refuse to discuss this esoteric topic simply because it is not for the ordinary people. For instance, you know you have a heart. You may even read up all about its physical shape and where it is and what its functions are and its diseases. But will you cut it open and prod it about trying to find out if it is working optimally or not? That is the sort of ridiculous things that are being offered these days into something you really do not want to mess it! 
The problem of being an honest yoga teacher amongst  a lot of charlatans who have mastered the act of acting like masters (u get the drift) is going to be a real issue for some of us:) 

Above I have listed the real demons of having a overflowing chakra. Reading it should give you enough reasons not to want to make any chakra overflow. 
The key phrase everybody, including the charlatans are missing, is "balancing the chakras". 
A steady practice will clear your nadis, energy channels. When their pathways are clear, the chakras will balance themselves out. Do not opt for short cut "chakra operations."
Invest in a strong practice, instead. 
Happy sadhana! 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Angushta drishti

You keep learning new things to do on the mat. And one of the things I am tripping about currently is the subject of drishtis -- points of focus.

For someone like me who has had to really struggle with balance (as a high vata person), drishtis are natural props. I cannot go ahead anywhere on the mat without the support a drishti provides.

In fact, the faster you establish the drishti -- which usually falls in place even without too much scholarship -- the sooner you reach a difficult pose. Some poses require external points of focus. Some need an internal one. Which of these you favour  may depend on your orientation as well as your weakness in a particular pose. All difficulties in a pose are places where you grow -- soulwise (yeah, I mean it in the context of wisdom of the soul:)

It is equally hilarious to see how people who claim to be fixated on the mat, and who even hold the drishtis, still extrovert the mind towards others in the class. And it is as if the main purpose of the drishti is totally lost on this person. As a teacher, you often struggle to reach this point across -- but it is difficult. 

As Ramana Maharishi explains the energy chooses its devotees. So, I wonder sometimes this too --this extroversion of the spirit of some yogis -- is also just a game being played out by Maya. Even a teacher cannot quarrel with THAT!

But that was an aside. Now back to our exciting preoccupation with the idea of drishti, and in this blog exclusively devoted to angushta drishti: 

* Whereever eyes are used, a natural trataka (yogic eye fixation) is established. And this said to cleanse the mind.
* In marma (energy points in the body) the thumb point covers the energy points of the other fingers as well.
* In martial arts, a hit on this part of your hand can disable you.
* The thumb is also connected to the eyes in marma therapy.
* In reflexology so many points are stacked up in the thumb -- pituitary, the adrenals, kidneys, pancreas, thyroid, parathyroid.
* In mudra therapy the thumb represents the element of fire -- and is used to transmute and control other four elements due to this power.

So maybe it is time to think of focusing on the thumb when doing some poses (like the backbends where the hands are held behind, as in the urdhva uttanasana /or ardha crescent /padahastasana )
so you can tweak so many important aspects of your mind and body.

And of course, the introversion will bring you closer to the cosmic truth.
And if you are not ready for it,   at least close to a better and more focused human being than yesterday:)

Happy sadhana!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Most thrilling pose: spiritual and physical highs of the scorpion pose

I learnt the scorpion in my 40s. I have fallen several times. Hurt myself because I was, as usual, learning this on my own.

But the most amazing experience of my forearm fracture... (the pose totally rests on your forearms) ..is that I have not fallen since the fracture --simply because I can't afford to jerk that arm. It's been only 4 months since the ulna practically broke into 2 pieces in a freak accident.  So intriguingly my mind has entered another layer of body awareness which is more clarified. Very exciting, sort of an out-of-body  awareness. I am sure people who have had traumatising physical experiences have this sense of stepping back from their body.

Interestingly, verbatim similar notes on the scorpion pose' s benefits exist in both Swami Satyanandaji's and BKS's bestsellers
respectively: that just by pointing/or  resting the feet on the head the yogi is destroying the poisons of ego, malice, anger, hatred, intolerance, jealousy. Hence the scorpion metaphor of cleaning oneself up spiritually.

Yesssss. .it is an anti-aging pose, according to Swami Satyanandaji. And especially pumps up the blood to the master glands in your brain. Other benefits are well-known so I won't get into that.

My own experience with the pose has been on how it releases energy. Usually my left nostril is blocked in the mornings.  But when I do the scorpion it just immediately opens up both nostrils. It's as if some big internal switch is pressed on. And some deep psychosomatic trapdoor is released. And I am that little bit more released. So it's an immediate high.
Tips for newcomers to this pose:
* I normally advise practitioners to work up to 3 minutes minimum in the supported headstand
* Then have a complementary practice of the unsupported headstand because this prepares u for the shakiness  u experience in the scorpion.
* Work on your backbends
* Work on your planks

Happy sadhana!!

Monday, June 27, 2016

The center of the battering ram

Parivritta Naukasana - Revolved boat pose

The symbol of the third center is the ram. It's clearly very telling ..of the strength of this center to your entire being. The core ..that part of the body that the entire look-good industry thrives on.

This center - where most of your breath originates - is treated with a lot of respect by martial arts across the world. More on that later. But we all know how difficult it is to cultivate an aesthetic ( read flat stomach )  naturally.  What u eat ( lack of protein, too much sodium or salt , beer or alcohol etc) can cause the stomach to swell up even in skinny people. What u think, your thoughts  also affects it's shape ( excessively angry people, highly stressed or highly anxious people for instance will have a disportionately large bellies ).

According the Kundalini yoga traditions these are the negative effects when your " ram" is in trouble:

1. Excessive rigid way of thinking
2. Greed
3. Constant need to have external approval
4. Manipulative
5. Self-indulgent
6. Procrastination

When it your "ram" is happy
1. Leadership
2. Practical goals
3. Collective responsibility
4. Will power
5. Self- confidence and self-control.
6. Doer

As a teacher and practitioner I find that this is the most challenging centre to deal with - on the mat.  Most people can be " stuck" at this center. It's possibly because it's a bridge between the animal in us and the sublime. 

Earlier I used to wring  my wrists about how resistant people are towards changing themselves. They come to yoga for health, for weight loss, for looking good or younger. But nobody sees this as the most scientific way to change themselves for the better. ( Possibly they think they are too good already;)

Some poses that challenge and tone the third chakra are:
* Dhanurasana ( bow)
* Naukasana (Boat pose)
* Dwipadasuptapawanmuktasana ( Two-legged lying energy release pose)

Yoga = Alchemy :)

Choose it to change yourself! 
Happy sadhana

Friday, June 24, 2016

Know your Solar plexus : secret of the Manipura chakra

Martial artists have for long celebrated this centre as the seat of power. And in a manner of speaking the rest of the world concedes it's importance by fussing about its aesthetics. ..a flat belly -by hook, crook or the surgeon's knife  ..is regarded as desirable. 
For some reason a slack belly evokes mirth. We try to hide it either with tight clothes or loose ones, depending on our orientation and body image.
For me the spiritual impact of the solar plexus region is extremely fascinating. But nowadays u can't say such things without the lunatics in the yoga world sabotaging it while the misguided theists go into an overdrive of suspicion.  If nothing else we can remove the mumbo jumbo out of this and see it purely in the context of psychosomatic impact if that attracts the rationalists.
Whatever it is here is a snapshot of your belly power..
When this center is troubled it happens due to certain types of mind frame which yoga calls vrittis or mental waves.
1. Spiritual ignorance
2. Thirst
3. Jealousy
4. Treachery
5. Shame
6. Fearq
7. Disgust
8. Delusion
9. Foolishness
10. Sadness

( From the book Manipura chakra by Rishi Nityabodhanandha for Bihar School of Yoga)

I don't know how many of us will concede our belly fat or digestive disasters are due to foolishness or treachery.  But maybe there is a way of dealing with our body's issues through the mind. Tomorrow I will compile on the physical issues of this center. So we can tackle it from various angles.
Manipura, the yogic name for the navel center, means the jewelled city. So there are treasures here ..in this center ..that are special. And to reach this city we need the right map.  We must know the terrain.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Types of yoga classes: the good, bad and the ugly

The illustration is self-explanatory.

I have new students, fresh to yoga. And some who have tried different yoga classes. I prefer the rank new comers to yoga because it depresses me to see how even after 2 or 3 years with a teacher or style some students don't have the basics right,  of a yoga code of conduct or even poses like the fish ,matsyasana ( which is a qualifying pose that way) ).
Some of these teachers are teaching celebs and some teachers have super practices.

So even while learning yoga myself I have seen how a pracititioner with a super yoga practice can be a lousy teacher. Then there are timid teachers who share more theory than practice. Some teachers who focus  on standing / floor poses for the entire class because to teach inversions or arm balances is too demanding.  The variations and combinations of teachers and students are exhausting.
It used to irritate me how casually yoga was being treated including by big institutions. Often it has become a way in which ashram heads keep rich people / donors happy by making them yoga teachers!  It gives bored rich women a halo and it gets the ashrams   more bored rich donors seeking salvation. But I have resolved this irritation now ..in  my head. I believe u get the yoga teacher u deserve.
So if u are in a class where sadhana is not paramount that is your choice, your karma.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Why sitting cross-legged can sort u physically, spiritually

Often it is funny how people pretending to be seated still will wriggle their toes or feet. They are extremely disturbed at sitting cross-legged on the ground.  But it's an ancient Indian practice now trying a comeback. It's treated as an exotic pose.the lotus or padmasana. But it should be   natural to us. Sitting on the chair could be unnatural, disconnected na?
The other equally neglected pose but which is celebrated by ancient rishis is siddhasana. For women the version would be siddhayoniasana.
Here is why sitting cross-legged works even if only at the physical level. According to Swami Niranjanananda (in his comment on siddhasana) : Meridians in the feet are stimulated and they are connected with the visceral organs eg the stomach, gallbladder, liver, spleen, kidneys, etc and all these poses have important roles in purifying the blood. "

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Urdhva dandasana: why this pose should not be used as entry for headstand

Urdhva dandasana/ upward rod pose. I also like to refer to it as samkonsirasana/ right angle headstand. Entire pressure builds up on neck and shoulders. I was very very surprised when students from other yoga schools said their teachers had tried to coax them to enter the basic headstand in this pose. Clearly none of those beginners got the headstand. Without preparing the neck for the strength to do it is really strange and even dangerous,  and can cause chronic neck pain.
* Most yoga teachers who don't have the patience to teach the akunchanasan / scrunch or heron transition in the basic headstand will push their students to try this..it's an advanced pose and needs more strength
* Since the hips move off the center right towards the back more scope for falling. .so only an experienced yoga practitioner can control that shift
* More awareness required to draw the hips back to center..again only an advanced practitioner can control this
* Also elbows will lift off in a beginner due to lack of control. .

Be smart in the yoga u do and choosing the quality and integrity of a teacher

#Yogaahhh # Yogadaily # toughyoga # sirsasana #urdhvadandasana #inversions

Thursday, May 05, 2016

The eyes are the keys

I I am learning very exciting stuff about the psychosomatic link between the eyes and one's moods. Apparently the eye muscles that surround the eyes called orbicularis oculi impact happiness centers in your brain. ( Refer The Science of Happiness by Stefan Klein ).
That made me curious about trataka. .the fifth stage of yoga.
Here are some powers that according Swami Niranjanananda come from regular practice of the eye exercises.
*  One could get rid of all fears.
* The special powers of yoga called siddhis are achieved through it.
* Develops mental focus.
* Improve memory
* Develops self confidence

Friday, April 29, 2016

Happiness yoga: practice to beat the blues

Reading the biology of happiness by neuroscientist Stefan Klein( The science of happiness). So did this small diagram to explain your brain map of happiness. Am finding interesting tidbits as to you can sort yourself physically. So much of this spoors back to yoga for me and the awe how rishis guessed these connections.
If the right brain is dominant people find it difficult to recover from bad experience, even something simple like a bad image in the papers. Even after the subconscious suppresses the reaction it stays below the surface as a bad feeling.
In yoga  u can sort your L -R brain imbalance and activate the left brain with the surya bheda ( the sun breath). But it needs to be monitored by an expert.
Tomorrow will ecplain how surya bheda may be done

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Yoga tip for the summer

Ok everybody thinks I am just posting yoga stuff that looks exotic or complicated. Actually yoga is a way of life. Here is a summer trick u can use
Yoga tip for summer: varun mudra( also jal mudra/ jal vardhak mudra)
The names mean rain/ water/increase water respectively.
The names say it all about its benefits.
Touch tip of little finger to tip of thumb, for each hand. Hold for 30 mins or more daily.
Increases water, as well works wherever there is deficit of body fluids ..semen/ menses/ dehydration/ thirst/ eye moisture/ saliva/ digestive juices. Go back to your school biology books and search up the entire list of fluids in body then u will appreciate where all this mudra can help.
ALERT: Avoid when there is too much of any fluid. Example? Mucous, excessive menstrual bleeding, water retention. Also ayurvedic kapha personality should avoid it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Tips for Bhumi Pada Mastakasana: Head and foot to to earth pose, advanced variation

Though many yoga schools consider this as the preparatory pose for headstand, I believe this is tougher than a headstand if you decide to stay longer in it. The headstand itself is far lighter than this pose. This is because your body is still close to gravity and therefore its power and drag is more felt.
Here is why this pose is tougher and demands more strength than the headstand:
* It is closer to gravity, so the drag on it is more
* The pressure on the neck is continuous, unlike in the headstand where after the initial pressure the whole body weight shifts to the shoulder.
* The tripod in a basic or even the unsupported headstand is more stable while in this pose, even in its basic variation, it is very unstable, and the entire instability of this pose shifts into neck.

How to avoid injuries in this pose:
* Practice unsupported headstand before trying this.
* Prepare the neck through regular leg raises, with the head lifted up (including in the suptapawanmuktasana) to strengthen the neck.

Do not try if having
* Neck problems
* Vertigo
* Weak balance (strengthen it in standing poses first)
* Migraine
* High blood pressure/heart problems

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Rediscovering Astavakragita

When I read the Astavakra Gita the first time I was completely smitten. But I am re-reading it now and find finer fibres of understanding that's magical. I could write reams or put across its magic in a few words. I am going to attempt the latter: the more popular philosophical texts advice us how to be pure or give directions on how to reach this state. Or they unravel  the trajectory  towards that state. But this tiny text book says,  "You are pure."  That you do not need to struggle. That bit is over. Wow. What a mindblowing idea..there is nothing to do any more!
Chapter 19, verse 8:
"To talk about the three ends of life is needless,to talk about yoga is purposeless, and even talk about wisdom  is irrelevant for me who repose in the Self. "

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No yoga without inversions